The Need To Use Free Wi-Fi While Risking Private Data

People just can’t live without Wi-Fi, even if it means they’re risking their private information, according to a July report from cybersecurity firm Symantec.

The findings were based on a May 2017 survey in which 15,500 people in 15 global markets were polled, including the United States.

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More than half of consumers around the world don’t think twice about hooking their device up to free public Wi-Fi, ignoring the risk of compromising personal data, the report said. The survey found 25 percent of respondents have hopped on a Wi-Fi network without the owner’s permission, while 8 percent guessed or hacked the password in order to get free internet.

Connecting to a Wi-Fi spot seems to be a force of habit, as 46 percent of consumers worldwide said they can’t wait more than a few minutes before logging into a network, or asking the owner of the hotspot for the password, whether it be a cafe spot or at a friend’s house.

“We’ve been conditioned as a culture to have the Internet follow us wherever we go,” Michael Osakwe from consumer finance site NextAdvisor told International Business Times. “Part of the push to get people to be more mindful about public Wi-Fi networks will likely involve getting consumers to think about how over-connected they might be, and to question the seemingly incessant urge to go online.”

Access to Wi-Fi is also dictating people’s decisions. Data show free Wi-Fi is a deciding factor for consumers when choosing stuff, like a hotel (71 percent), a restaurant (43 percent) or an airline (43 percent).

While nearly half of respondents said the most important reason to access Wi-Fi is so they can use Maps, Google Maps or other GPS apps, but some are not using it for necessary reasons. The survey found 1 in 6 respondents admitted to using public Wi-Fi to watch adult content.

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As people rush to sign on to free Wi-Fi networks, they’re forgetting that cyber criminals can easily access private information through hotspots. Sixty percent of consumers worldwide say they feel their personal data is secure when using free Wi-Fi, while 53 percent said they couldn’t tell the difference between a secure or nonsecure network.

Security measures like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) make browsing over free Wi-Fi networks safer. However, the survey found 75 percent of consumers said they…

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